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State-title winning Fargo coach fired after text message to team

Posted by: Howard Sinker Updated: February 6, 2014 - 4:10 PM

The baseball coach at Shanley High School in Fargo, whose team won the North Dakota state baseball title last season, said he has been fired as the result of a text message that he sent to his team.

According to the Fargo Forum newspaper, coach Joel Swanson said that a parent has complained and school officials "told me the text message was considered threatening in tone and wording."

Swanson started the Shanley baseball program in 1999 and has been its only coach. The situation has some parallels to that of the former baseball coach at Mounds View High School, Jon Nuss, who lost his job after leading his team to the Minnesota Class 3A title in June and winning a Coach of the Year honor.

Swanson provided Forum reporter Tom Mix with a copy of a letter that he had sent to Shanley administrators, which he said included the text message. Here's what he told the players:

“We are two months into open gyms and obviously all of you are satisfied with last year’s title. We are the team that will have a target on our backs. We are the team that everyone throws their ace against. We are the team everyone wants to beat this year. I am sick of stupid excuses to not come to open gym. … If you want to be an athlete commit to it. One hour a week is not too much to ask if you want to be an athlete.

“If you make an excuse not to come then you are telling me what kind of athlete you are. I cannot require you to come but I thought I would have a group excited to try and defend a title. Not to make excuses and not care. Some of you are not even in a sport right now, which is even more pathetic. … I will not send out another message like this, but some of you may be in for a rude awakening when the season comes and you are not in the lineup due to a younger player that puts in the time.”

When reporter Mix contacted Shanley's activities director, the firing was confirmed but he was told that it was a personnel matter and details could not be discussed.

Last year, the Minnesota Legislature approved a law that bars schools from firing a coach solely because of complaints by parents. No such law exists in North Dakota.

You can read the full story here.

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